Juventus achieved another victory with a solid display, but it wasn't so easy. Atalanta coach Edy Reja parked the bus in front of his goal, but luckily the Bianconeri had the "always trustworthy" strikeforce of Andrea Barzagli and Mario Lemina at their disposal to break Reja's defensive seal.
Max Allegri returned to the 4-3-1-2 formation, he deployed Roberto Pereyra as trequartista behind the partnership of Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala. Reja employed a 3-5-2 configuration, starting former Juventus striker Marco Borriello in attack.
The first half looked like an attack vs. defense training drill. The Bianconeri claimed the ball from the beginning and tried to break Atalanta's resistance with their offensive resources and imagination. Just 10 minutes after the kickoff, Juventus executed a series of lovely passes that reached Sami Khedira behind the Neroazurri defense. The German midfielder fired a low shot, but Marco Sportiello made a clever save with his legs. Four minutes later, Atalanta stole the ball from Claudio Marchisio in the middle of the park, Borriello sent a deep cross that found Luca Cigarini on the far post, but his volley was defective and easily saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
At the 24th minute, Juventus took the lead with a corner kick. Manzukic raised up inside the penalty area and assisted Barzagli with a header, the defender sent the ball to the back of the net from close range. After the goal, Juventus took their foot off the gas. Atalanta attempted to respond but Buffon and his defenders managed the situation with aplomb.
The second half began with a furious counterattack by the Neroazurri. On 48 minutes, Atalanta took advantage of an erratic corner kick and charged towards Buffon. But Mandzukic tracked the play and made an impressive box-to-box save. On 59 minutes, Sportiello made his best René Higuita interpretation, as the young goalkeeper tried to dribble past Mandzukic just outside his penalty area, but the Croatian disposed him.
Fortunately for Atalanta, Mandzukic failed to put enough power behind his shot, allowing Rafael Tallói to cover his keeper.
Juventus was in control of the game, but it felt like Atalanta could make some damage sooner or later. Allegri brought fresh legs when he replaced Khedira for Lemina at the 68th minute. In the last half hour, Juventus attempted a few timid attacks and Reya went all in introducing his veteran playmaker Alessandro Diamanti into the game.
It appeared that Juventus would try to guard their minimal advantage in the scoreboard, but Lemina had other plans. At the 87th minute the Gabonese midfielder took the ball on the edge of the box, he went past two defenders with a step-over and a nutmeg, then he curled a beautiful shot with the outside of his boot beating a diving Sportiello. This marvelous score killed the game off and gave the Bianconeri the security to navigate on the final minutes.
On injury time, Atalanta performed their last scoring attempts. Andrea Masiello executed a dangerous volley from the corner of the box that Buffon saved skillfully on the far post. A few seconds later, Tolói fired a poisonous shot; however, Buffon controlled the ball effortlessly.
Juventus won another game on Serie A, a really important one because Napoli beat Chievo 3-1 at Stadio San Paolo on Saturday. Now, the Bianconeri will host the dangerous Sassuolo on Friday. Later, on March 16, the Turin-based squad will travel to the Allianz Arena to clash against Bayern Munich. Therefore, guys, let's keep our seat belts fastened.
Buffon 6.75 Gigi played with his usual poise and personality. He leaded his defense expertly and managed Atalanta's hazards skillfully.
Litchsteiner 6.5 The Swiss Express delivered a solid match defensively. He was quiet on attack.
Bonucci 7 Leo was decisive with some clever interceptions and his aerial skills. Borriello never disturbed him.
Barzagli 8 "The Bomber" Barzagli played a great game. He unlocked the duel with his score and never put a foot wrong on the defense side.
Evra 6.5 The Frenchman accomplished a pair of interesting incursions on offense, like his Swiss counterpart he was solid on defense.
Marchisio 6 The Bianconeri regista tracked nicely most of Atalanta's attacks. However, he lost a couple of dangerous balls on the midfield that his opponents failed to concrete.
Pogba 6.25 He was incisive during the first half of the game, but he continues to struggle with his consistency.
Khedira 6.75 Big Sami performed his trademark long runs into the box early and often. He was a constant menace to the neroazurri defense.
Pereyra 5.5 El Tucumano was a ghost, he got lost between the enemy's lines and didn't make an impact.
Dybala 6.75 La Joya was extremely dynamic on this match, he created havoc on his rivals' defense but his final touch missed the usual finesse.
Mandzukic 7.25 A warrior on the turf. He sacrificed himself on defense and delivered the assist for Barzagli's goal.
Lemina 7.25 The Gabonese youngster made an impact with his habitual energy. His score was an authentic jewel that served to finish the match.
Sandro s/v Entered for Pereyra at the 81st minute.
Morata s/v Entered for Dybala at the 88th minute
Allegri 6.5 It was a difficult game at Bergamo. He managed the rhythm of the game; nevertheless, right now, Juventus are suffering with the catenaccio of the provincial clubs.
Things I think I think
- This past Wednesday night, Barzagli scored on the penalty shootout against Inter and on Sunday he scored again. This guy is simply amazing and full of surprises.
- Gigi Buffon hasn't conceded a goal on 836 minutes for Serie A ... and I won't say anything about Dino Zoff or Sebastiano Rossi because I don't want to jinx the record. By the way, it isn't bad for a 38-year-old goalkeeper.
- Lemina's goal right now is in my podium for Juventus' best goal of 2016. What a beauty!
- Okay, Sassuolo, it's time for revenge!